Mike Miller opened Delilah’s in 1993 and it has been open every day since according to their website. And Mike: he once told me that he comes to the bar every day and when it no longer is fun to come to Delilah’s he will sell the bar. The bar is located at 2771 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. It does not look fancy, in fact it looks like a dive bar. There is always music playing ranging from punk rock to heavy metal and it does not look or sound like a place you might see Jimmy Russell or Wes Henderson but you just might. I did the last two times I was in Delilah’s. They were there because the bar is well known as a whiskey bar featuring a large selection of Bourbons and other American whiskeys.
In fact Louisville owes its Bourbon Bar scene to Delilah’s. Not long after Delilah’s opened there was an article in the Courier-Journal about the best Bourbon Bar in the United States and declared that it was Delilah’s. Delilah’s was Bourbon before Bourbon was cool, featuring a fantastic selection of Bourbons and a staff that knew about what they were pouring. It was something that was not found in Louisville at that time except in a few traditional places like the Brown Hotel or the Seelbach Bar. People started asking how Louisville could be the center of the Bourbon universe and not have a Bourbon bar as good as Delilah’s. Not long after the article was written, the Galt House opened the city’s first dedicated Bourbon Bar on their top floor: D’Marie’s. D’Marie’s is long gone but Delilah’s is still around and is still one of the best Bourbon bars in the United States.
I met Mike Miller not many years after Delilah’s opened. He is a regular attendee at the Master Distiller’s Auction at the Getz Museum and has purchased many thousands of dollars worth of bottles at the auction, supporting the museum and building his collection. Mike is a very knowledgeable person in the lore of whiskey. He has always loved Bourbon, rye, and other whiskeys from around the world. Miller is also very good at passing along this knowledge to his staff. He will often bring them or sponsor them for a trip to Kentucky to tour distilleries or attend classes. He had several members of his staff at a Filson Bourbon Academy in Chicago several years ago and some members of the staff have travelled to Louisville to take the class. Education is important to a server at Delilah’s.
Walking into Delilah’s is unique. It sounds loud and it is anything but pristine, modern décor. However there is an atmosphere of welcoming that is relaxing. One look at the back bar and all of the Bourbon’s immediately makes me smile. All of the major brands and distilleries are represented on the back bar, with many craft distilleries and rectified products as well. If it is good whiskey, Mike will keep it in the bar. The servers can help with suggestions if you need it. If Mike is there, and he usually is, you might be able to get a pour of some prohibition era Bourbon that he keeps behind the bar. He found several cases of this whiskey in the late 90s and will often pour it for friends and he makes friends often. The pours are generous. They do make cocktails and I am told they are quite good, but I can never bring myself to dilute such good whiskey as I find at Delilah’s.
I would rate their selection with three points. I would also give the staff three points for knowledge and skill. They do offer flights and have generous pours so that is another three points in my book. I would throw in two points for atmosphere and another point for the fact that you never know who you will find having a drink at Delilah’s. This gives Delilah’s a total of 12 points. It truly is one of my favorites Bourbon Bars and a real Bourbon treasure.
Photos Courtesy of Delilah’s